Part of the fallout from the Marvel diversity backlash (See Is Diversity Killing Marvel Comics?) is a broader look at the systemic weakness of the comics direct market. Rob Salkowitz of ICV2 recently pointed out the flaws in the production, distribution and retail aspects of the direct market.
“What Marvel is seeing in microcosm with its sales dip is the same basic problem that we’ve seen in comics distribution for the past 30 years: a direct market embodying a checklist of economic pathologies so profound and systemic that it’s a wonder that it functions at all.”
With the Big Two controlling most of the market, Diamond controlling all of the distribution and independently owned stores just trying to stay open, the market forces don’t lend themselves to growth. This has never been a good situation, but spikes in consumer awareness created by the transmedia success of comic properties make the systemic problems more pronounced.
So how will the situation resolve itself? Can digital distribution provide the new content the Big Two can’t, circumvent the stranglehold in distribution and expand the sales base beyond the direct market? Time will tell, but based on 2016 numbers, digital isn’t the killer app for print comics right now.
No matter which way the market goes, the potential shakeup in the comic book market can create opportunities for independent creators who are ready to take advantage of them.
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